Bnny Lays It All on the Table and Walks Us Through “Everything” Track by Track

The Chicago four-piece, whose debut is out today, details nature’s impact on the album and its many emotional hues.
Track by Track
Bnny Lays It All on the Table and Walks Us Through “Everything” Track by Track

The Chicago four-piece, whose debut is out today, details nature’s impact on the album and its many emotional hues.

Words: Margaret Farrell

photo by Alexa Viscius

August 20, 2021

There’s an undeniable softness to the music of Chicago quartet Bnny. Sometimes that comes from the whispered vocals of Jess Viscius. Sometimes it’s from the mellow country tones of the backing band—twin sister Alexa and friends Tim Makowski and Matt Pelkey. Sometimes it’s haunting, and other times romantic or serene. Their debut album Everything showcases their gentle rock n roll through hues of grief and desire.

Inspired by The Velvet Underground’s two-chord ease, Bnny use that accessible and dreamy scaffolding to peer into Jess Viscius’ most intimate moments. On top of this heavy-hitting inspiration, the album is also dotted with remnants of Violent Femmes if they dabbled in bedroom surf-pop and grittier variations of Yé-Yé. The first half of the album explores these gutsier sentiments with tracks like “Promises” and “Take That Back” which paint self-righteousness and begrudged self-respect in sepia tones. “You take your promises / I’ll keep my sanity,” she moans on the former, still maintaining her voice’s whispery tone.

Later, Everything reflects on the somber dichotomies of life. “Everything dies,” Viscius sings on “Little Flower” with a heavy emphasis on that second word, “And then comes back, to life.” The following track “Stardust” is an album highlight that details love’s ephemerality as a fleeting lullaby. Viscius doesn’t hold anything back—even songs that were impacted by her partner’s passing. “That would only tell half of my truth. It seems more honest to include all of it, which is why I decided to call the album ‘Everything,'” she says. “Because these songs, these memories, are everything I’ve got.”

Listen to Everything and read through Viscius’ thoughts on each track below.

1. “Ambulance”

The song is about grief. I wrote it one night before a show. It was one of those instances where I didn’t think about the chords or lyrics, they just sort of appeared. I sing over one lone guitar until the end, when Alexa’s bass appears and steadies me.

2. “August”

This song is about willing yourself to change, about knowing what’s best for you and doing the exact opposite. August in Chicago is set to the soundtrack of buzzing cicadas. I wanted this song to have a visceral, fleeting-summer-night feeling. The track starts with a voice memo of me walking through an alley, the electric hum of the cicadas audible throughout. Tim’s guitar echoes their call and the band drops in like a surprise.

3. “Promises”

This song is about broken promises. It’s one of our oldest songs. I remember writing it with the band during practice back when drinking several beers was basically a requisite for writing music together. The song is fast, sloppy, full of energy and love. Live, I often start out playing it too fast and toward the end of the song we’re all just trying to keep up, barely hanging on. It reminds me of being young.

4. “Dreaming”

This song is about wanting to see someone again. I wrote it after a good year or so of being unable to write anything. I was grieving, desperately sad and angry. I remember my roommates weren’t home so I was able to play my guitar really loud. I started softly strumming E, gradually building up to full blown wail, pulling the neck close to my chest and letting the chord bend. It felt like a freight train hitting. The chord drops off but the reverb falls like a blanket as the vocals set in.

5. “Take That Back”

A lot of our songs are slow, quiet, contemplative, but this one is a rocker. The song is about resentment and I wanted that energy to come through sonically. It was one of the first songs we ever made a demo of. I remember cramming into my sister’s car with the band and listening to it for the first time. Everyone smiling and nodding their heads to the beat.

6. “Time Walk”

I came up with this song idea as I was walking around one morning trying to make sense of something. It’s about the clairity you find when in motion. Sonically, I wanted it to sound like a frantic alarm clock, a literal and figurative wake-up call. My fav part is the cabasa that sounds like a little flash of lightning.

7. “Not Even You”

I remember I wrote this song in the fall. Sitting in my bedroom with the window cracked open fully entranced in nostalgia. It’s about missing someone but trying to say goodbye.

8. “So Wrong”

“So Wrong”—but my sister calls it “So Long” because she doesn’t like playing it live [laughs]. It’s about problems within a relationship. I love the dynamic of delicate vocal and loud instrumentation. It sounds like the push and pull of an argument.

10. “Sure”

“Sure” is a simple stream-of-conscious, two-chord song. I remember writing it on my acoustic guitar one evening. I kept trying to add a bridge or another chord but the simplicity felt honest. The song is about apathy and uncertainty. I think of the outro guitar lines as embracing each other in a lonesome dance, which also inspired the visuals for the music video.

11. “Blind”

This song is about breaking up with someone, despite still being in love. I remember bringing it to band practice and it coming together almost instantly. I love Tim’s guitar line at the end. We always call it the “sexy notes.”

12. “Thaw”

“Thaw” is about feeling unwilling to move on. I had just learned how to play power chords. Everyone in the band says this is our 1990s song.

13. “Little Flower”

I wrote “Little Flower” around the same time I started to garden. I was thinking about cycles in nature, about everything dying and coming back to life in the spring. I love the interplay of Tim and I’s guitars, the sad but hopeful melody.

14. “Stardust”

“Stardust” is about feeling grateful to have loved someone. I play it on the bottom of the fretboard, the high notes ring out like distant cries. The xylophone and organ give it a childlike quality. I imagine it being played amongst the stars, each note sparkling and the words fading into black.